In a recent cover story, Fortune magazine reports a "growing
quest for spiritual renewal in the workplace" and describes
"a counter culture bubbling up all over corporate America
that wants to bridge the traditional divide between spirituality
and work." The article describes a group of middle aged business
men meeting to explore how to spend more time "working from
their souls" and quotes a Harvard Business School research
fellow who follows the topic and agrees; "spirituality in
the workplace is exploding."
A new urgency
The new, more introspective trend may in part be a natural reaction
to the booming, possessions-oriented 90's. Fortune quotes one
successful executive as saying, "You get to the top of the
ladder and find that maybe it's leaning against the wrong building."
Now, with the added shocks of September 11 and additional rounds
of downsizing, the need to integrate what I do at work with a
larger purpose that has personal meaning has taken on a new urgency,
even among the twenties and thirties crowd who have never known
anything but good times.
A practical solution
How should we as HR professionals respond? Is there a practical
and acceptable way HR organizations can help people "bridge
the divide between spirituality and work"? And should we
even be trying to help people work "from their souls"?
We believe the answer to these questions is "Yes".
Why? Because the need to address this "exploding" issue
may be impossible, or impractical to ignore. And because there
are some there are some very concrete ways to cope with these
challenges. We've been developing techniques to help people bring
their souls to work for over twenty years - and we've been implementing
these programs in the toughest corporate environments. Invariably,
the firms have benefited at the bottom line. These proven techniques
have been used to help people who have been downsized as well
as for building increased performance and job satisfaction among
the rest of the workforce.
Through our work, we've been able to tap into and enable the higher
aspirations of employees in Fortune 500 companies without setting
off alarms. At GE's no-nonsense corporate headquarters we introduced
inner-needs focused career and performance development programs
that were so successful GE exported them to its businesses worldwide.
Part of this practical approach has included the development
of models articulating what competencies distinguish successful
people with tools for developing them. Our research competency-based
tool kits have been applied successfully across a full range of
large Fortune 500 companies and small organizations, for profit
From the beginning, we believed that it's a myth that there has
to be an irreparable split between spirituality and productivity
at work. We have always found that the myth disappeared, or never
came up, if we used a language that addressed both dimensions
- and if the tools and techniques we proposed clearly enhanced
both. It also helped that we based our action proposals not on
theory, but on practical lessons from the trenches. Our research
team has interviewed over 5000 people in large and small organizations
Your Soul at Work
We think people should work with their spiritual advisors to define
"soul" in their own specific terms. Instead, we focus
on a specialized definition that most people, no matter what their
unique spiritual beliefs, can apply practically to their work
For career purposes your soul is the inner you -the center of
your being. It's that part of you that knows your deepest needs
and aspirations and that's the source of your energy. If you leave
your soul at home and have no time for it later, your job won't
be very fulfilling.
We've discovered most people's souls want four things at work.
They want to:
- love their jobs and find jobs they love
- succeed in their work
- navigate successfully through predictable life stage transitions
- tie their work to a higher life purpose that has personal
meaning for them.
We've learned that, to be effective, we have to address all four
in our career and life planning process. To do this at a practical
level we've developed a "taking charge" process that
leads people through an integrated roadmap of discovery and decision.
This includes providing tools that help them find jobs they love;
teaching them what non-technical work behaviors research shows
are critical to success in most career specialties; helping them
update their plans through successive life stage transitions and
supporting their need to put it all in the context of a higher
"Soul at work" need not be an oxymoron. Companies that
foster employees' personal and spiritual growth find it makes
them tremendously more productive. HR's role in such a company
is to provide an enabling environment and the practical tools
to encourage continuous growth and learning.
While each person must navigate his or her unique career and
life journeys, a time-tested, research-proven process with tools
can help them plot the course much more effectively in directions
they really want to go.
Your Soul at Work outlines our "taking charge"
process and contains a step-by-step Career and Life Workbook with
the exercises, tools, and checklists we use in our practice.